Yes, women still earn 75% as much as men

Graph of earnings by educational attainment for men and women in 2009

Have you been repeating the stat that women earn only 75% as much as their male counterparts for years but secretly wondered if it could possibly still be true? Well, according to a report released yesterday by the White House, it still is! Which is pretty damn sad.

Described as the most comprehensive federal report on the status of women in the U.S. since 1963, the report mainly provides a statistical snapshot–filled with many a nice graph!–of a lot of facts you probably already know.

  • Women (and men) are getting married later than ever before
  • Women are delaying having children longer, having fewer of them, or sometimes not having them at all
  • Women still typically do more housework than men
  • Women are more likely to be victims of some crimes such as stalking and domestic violence
  • Women are more likely than men to suffer from depression and chronic health problems
  • Women are more likely to live in poverty than men

And that pesky pay gap! 75 cents to the dollar. At all levels of educational attainment. (And for Black and Hispanic women that’s 71% and 62% respectively.) A stat that persists despite the fact that women have not only caught up with men in education but have now surged past them. These days, young women are actually more likely than young men to have college or graduate degrees.

Valerie Jarrett, chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, says she hopes the report “serves as a guidepost to help us move forward.” But as our own Ann Friedman writes at the Atlantic, naming a problem is one thing–fixing it is quite another.

“Even as it highlights the major advances women have made over the past few decades, the report raises some challenging questions about the meaning of women’s progress. Does it matter that more women are getting educated if they still aren’t making money on par with their male colleagues in the workforce? Does it matter that women are delaying childbirth if they still overwhelmingly end up as primary caregivers? Does it matter if women live longer if, over the course of their lives, they suffer from more mental and physical health problems?”

Creating effective solutions to these persistent gaps is a huge policy challenge–one that requires political will and innovative thinking. In the meantime, at least we have a better picture of where we are and where we’ve been. And you can rest assured: 75% does indeed still stand. For now.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted March 2, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Some of the other statistics are… selectively chosen. Granted, the first two do not carry a positive or negative quality to them, so I won’t concern myself with them. But while you can say that women are more likely to be victims of certain crimes, it is also true men are especially more likely to be victims of murder. While women are more likely to have certain health problems, the overall disparity in chronic diseases is not especially large, and women have a greater life expectancy. While employed wives on average do more housework, employed husbands do more “job” work (and the differences are about a wash). It’s not to diminish the significance of these issues for women, but it’s not really fair to give 5 “sad points” for women and 0 for men, especially when men lose on related points.

    Regarding the point of 75% (not sure “you can rest assured: 75% does indeed still stand” is quite the tone you wanted to strike), there are issues with it. I quote the paper:

    “The earnings gap between women and men narrowed for most age groups from 1979 to 2009. The women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio among 25- to 34-year-olds, rose from 68 percent in 1979 to 89 percent in 2009, and the ratio for 45- to 54-year-olds increased from 57 percent to 74 percent.”

    Since it can help explain how this trend can still produce a 75% ratio overall, I believe the average ages of the male and female sections in the workforce is distorting the number. Since younger women are more likely to work than older women, the women in the workforce will be younger on average than the men, and being younger usually corresponds to having less experience, which is a somewhat legitimate reason to have a wage disparity. Furthermore, the improvements in the wage ratios between women and men is promising, although the improvement has to be tempered by the fact young women are still falling short despite now being more educated on average — although even this consideration has to take into account the fields that women and men tend to work.

    75% may be an interesting number, but I think if we want make sense of it (rather than just have a certain feeling about it), we need to look at studies that distinguish the mentioned variables: age, experience, and field (in addition to other notable criteria such as level of education, gender, race). We may get a better sense of where the “discrimination” lies that way (is it within fields or between fields, or does it emerge as experience accumulates? Or is there some other explanation?) We can look at 75% and say there is a problem, but this symptom by itself does not give us a clear picture of the problem.

    Speaking of fuzzy pictures, the chart you have included is likely to cause eye-strain. If you can, please replace it with a higher-quality image.

  2. Posted March 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    And you can rest assured: 75% does indeed still stand. For now.

    It clearly states 80%, unadjusted for hours worked. Its more equal if you do adjust for it. Rough math on my part comes up to 93% adjusting with the average workday numbers presented elsewhere in the document.

    Women still typically do more housework than men

    The summary gives this a poor treatment, in the BLS studies on the matter men and women have roughly equal leisure free time in any given day. Its a question of if you spend an extra hour at home on chores, or an extra hour at work.

  3. Posted March 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Is the 75% figure representative of the pay earned for equal work, or is this another one of those misleading “all woman and men of the same age and full-time status” things? Because we really need to stop pushing those, as they are not necessarily indicative of unequal treatment. You can’t honestly compare a woman who works a full-time administrative job with a man who works a full-time union construction job, can you? These types of comparisons will only be useful when certain career fields finally achieve gender parity– if they ever do.

    • Posted March 3, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Yes April these studies are based on comparing the pay for women and men in the same profession, doing equivalent work.

      • Posted March 3, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        The report states no such thing.

        This report is based on broad economic categories which restricts the study to full time workers, then individually compare the gender gap across education, race, and age. It does not adjust for hours worked, it merely restricts the study to full time employment, and it does not compare any of the results together. This captures people who work 35 hour work weeks, and it includes the people working 60-70 hour work weeks, and it merely displays the averages within those workforces, it makes no attempt to go further in depth, although it does include a separate section about workplace demographics in select sectors.

        This is because such reports are hard to do, and the data sets simply are not there. The most in depth report I’ve seen conducted a multi-variable analysis which included work experience, industry, education, hours worked, and employment gaps. But even it suffered because it compared industry not occupation, for example, the comptroller of a Toyota assembly plant and a factory worker in that plant are both classified as working in the manufacturing industry.

        In fact I haven’t seen a good treatment which compares occupation because it is exceptionally hard to get a good data set.

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